Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Despereaux Fix

Writing in the XX Factor on Slate, Emily Bazelon addresses a question we've been pondering over here. It is: Why are kids movies so scary? And why is Despereaux scary, too?

When my kids first saw the trailer for Depereaux, they were transfixed. I told them when the movie opened I'd go see it and decide if it was OK for them. Before I could, my husband logged onto the Despereaux web site and after watching a few scenes, my 4-year-old daughter came to me with a miserable look on her face and said, "I think I'll wait until I'm 7 to see Despereaux."

Bazelon points out that many movies for 4-7-year-olds all seem to have some kind of terrifying element. Not just sad, like Bambi, but terrifying. Why is that? Is there a belief in the movie industry that kids need more titillation now then when we were kids because they see so much more so much sooner. But they see so much so young because that's what's there to see and if it's cold and there's not much to do, do you go to the movies and grin and bear the scary bits? Why do they have to be shown so much so soon? Why is the excitement and suspense ante up so high?

I know this is a little bit like asking why can't we all just get along, but, come to think of it, why can't we? besides, the world is big and confusing and plenty scary for 4-year-olds as it is. It's a fine line between teasing that fear (as in fairy tales) and exploiting it and it's a long time since I've seen even an ad for a movie that seems to walk the right side of that line. Maybe Toy Story? In any case, for the time being, it's cupcakes and Dan Zanes for us.

Happy New Year!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

She's a Kennedy, and She's Not Like Us

In the Washington Post, Anne Glusker argues that the response to Caroline Kennedy asking very nicely for that Senate seat is just like the response women who once had careers get when they try to go back to the workforce after taking time off with their kids. You know what? That's total malarky.

Yes, women trying to return to the work force after taking several years off have a terrible time finding work. Yes, they are often forced to take pay cuts or jobs lower on the ladder then their experience warrants. I'm all for having a debate on work-life balance and trying to change work-place policies to make them more amenable to family life for both women and men. But I don't think we should confuse the problems women face going back to work with a cry of "Enough!" when it comes to one nice woman from a good family. Because the work-life problem is a big one, but it has nothing to do with Caroline Kennedy.

Caroline Kennedy put together a reasonable working life writing books and working for the New York City public schools. This presumably gave her a flexible enough schedule to care for her children. Now she wants to enter public life in the legislative branch. Certainly she has an enviable professional network and has done some very good work. But does that mean she should get the seat?

When Hillary Clinton ran for the Senate, she did what she always does. She worked. As a partner in a law firm in Arkansas, she had to negotiate, like senators do. As First Lady, she learned the ins and outs of the legislative process the hardest way imaginable, in front of the cameras and as "the wife." And as a candidate, she went on that listening tour upstate and probably sat through 7,000 chicken dinners. Then she won the seat. Sure, she had a famous name, but she also earned it.

Galusker would have us believe that it's wrong thinking to argue that because Kennedy didn't follow the "straight and narrow" she can't do the job and just because she hasn't done something similar doesn't mean she can't. Well, no. She might be able to do the job, but that's not the point. The point is why is her hat in the ring in the first place?

I think it's gret that someone in Kennedy's position wants to do public service. It's a hard choice -- easier to make if you're wealthy, sure -- but it's still not an easy life. But why is Kennedy asking to start at the very top? And why isn't she running in an actual election? There are elections in New York. She could lay the ground work for one right now and she could run for any number of jobs. But instead Kennedy chose to ask for the high visibility seat that once belonged to her uncle, and without ever having run for elected office, she is being considered for this job primarily because of her family.

Certainly being the daughter of John Kennedy has been both a blessing and burden, but, let's be clear: without her name, she's a smart woman with a good address who went to the right schools and kept working when she had kids in the way that worked for her. With her father's name and history, she's a senate candidate. Now, really, is that like you and me?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Tom Cruise-2

Last night we watched Tropic Thunder and it reminded me of what's so easy to forget about Tom Cruise -- he can be a mad genius. His future is clearly in these mad, mad roles. If you haven't seen Tropic Thunder, you owe it to yourself to have a look-see. If only for old, mad Tom.

The No Vaccinating Problem

This piece from Jezebel about a recent outbreak of the measles in San Diego -- an outbreak initiated by some Whole Foods shoppers -- almost gets at one of my main objections to not vaccinating. In Jezebel and on pandagon (the original article Jezebel sites), they point out the weird connection between being opposed to vaccinating and an undermining of feminism. To wit: if your child gets the measles, the child will have to be quarantined for three weeks, which is OK if you're not a working mother, but if you do work, it's not so good. This gets at the problem of attachment parenting and the strange elevation/de-valuing of women that goes on there, but that's not my point here. No, the point is that Jezebel also quotes Amanda Marcotte writing at pandagon saying that those who have the privilege not to vaccinate are able to do so and trust their children are safe because everyone else vaccinates. So they don't vaccinate to make a political point.

But the making of a political point is not the worst of it, to my mind. The worst of it is that parents who choose not to vaccinate are able do so and not worry too much about measles or whooping cough or any other disease that used to kill or maim children, because they --self- righteously ---reject the purported risk. But in doing so, they rely on other parents to take on whatever risk they're rejecting (even if the risk is highly dubious). It's a terrible kind of selfish my-kid-first-ism. From where I sit, not vaccinating is either a privilege of wealth and access or a burden of poverty. It's not like I didn't worry about vaccinating my kids, I did. I worried, and I wondered, but still, if you're choosing not to vaccinate, I'm hard pressed to come up with a reasonable or ethical reason for the choice.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Do We Really Care About Conservatives?

What made my head explode this morning? This New York Times opinion piece title: "An Emissions Plan Conservatives Could Warm To."

Because really who cares about what will please conservatives? I'm all for open debate between disagreeing sides. I'm not the most progressive of progressives. I'm good with incentives to do good (because we all know self-interest works). And I'm sure there are some smart conservatives out there (Andrew Sullivan is a conservative). But still. After eight years of conservative rule and 16 (or 30) years of undo influence on economic policy, I think it's fair to say conservatives have said enough. What with the collapse of the free markets, a crumbling infrastructure, and a fundamentally failed foreign policy, conservatives may now scuttle off to their tiny little think tanks, hang their heads and weep for what they've done to this country. Weep. Long and hard.

An emissions plan conservatives could warm to. As if.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The No-Sleep Situation

I'm in one of those stretches where I'm not sleeping. Sure, there are my kids, who aren't the best sleepers in the world and regularly keep me up -- but it's not just them. I'm just not sleeping so well. I need to exercise more, but I'm getting over a pulled hamstring (turns out I'm the kind of person who can think about running and get injured). I guess I could do some relaxation exercise, but I'm too tense. Did I even have to write that? So what can I do? I'll simply wait for the exhaustion to do its work; hopefully, tonight's the night. In the meantime, I leave you with a picture of the very, very intense cupcakes that I made with my kids today. Because what do you do when you're too tired to think? Bake. Naturally.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Swedish Christmas

Here's what I learned today about the Swedish celebration Christmas.

You celebrate Christmas Eve.
Red cabbage is very good.
Hot spiced wine dotted with almonds and raisins and spiked with aquavit is a parent's perfect bug juice.
Herring. So many don't like it and I don't know why.

I learned several other things, but this next thing is the most important: Some Swedes have indoor swings. I think this could be a traditional Swedish household item for those long, dark Scandinavian nights. Or may be it's simply well-adapted apartment living. Either way, it's genius.

Really, there's nothing not to love about a Swedish Christmas in New York.

Here I Go

So just lasr night I blogged about how politics feels too serious to blog about so you know, you just know, that now I'm going to blog about some current events thing. And yes it's the cars. Today in the Times there's a story about a GM plant in Ohio closing. It made SUVs. At one point, it made 20,000 marginally safe, gas-guzzling, road hogging SUVs a month. I feel badly that the people at the plant lost their jobs -- "It was a good ride," one said, "I just wish it would've lasted." But, really, how could cars that get, like, what, 12 miles to the gallon be a good long-term business investment?

From the very beginning oil has been a limited resource of which the US doesn't have much. Putting aside the environmental impact of cars that burn fossil fuels like there's no tomorrow, assuming, as the decision makers at GM did, the gas party would last forever was just dumb. You don't really have to have an in-depth knowledge of the car business to grasp that. OK, they were focused on short-term profits. Of course, the country had an unquenchable (and indefensible) desire for SUV, but doesn't it take a genius to have recognized that there would be an end. So now tomorrow has come. What a surprise.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Glasses: Update

I found them. When my son Elliot was watching "the car seat song" on youtube (AKA, Taking the Long Way by the Dixie Chicks) I saw that they were lying at the foot of my desk chair. That means they must have been somewhere on the desk and in Elliot's way. Glasses on a desk. Who'd-a-thunk-it!

Political Talk

I'm finding it harder to blog politics these days. Politics just feels too serious. The talk is not who's up or who's down in the polls or what crazy thing Sarah Palin said. Instead it's how bad the economic crisis is and how deep the Madoff scandal goes and how Pakistan itself can be construed as a weapon of mass destruction and how the auto workers are blamed for everything but the bankers get away with a free ride and an easy buck. Again. Then there are the war crimes. Will there be trials? Will leaders be held accountable for dismantling the justice system in the name of security? All this feels too big to blog about. Sure, I blog about some of it, but it's not easy to be an easy-writer and snap-judger when tens of thousands losing their jobs or the environmental crisis getting pushed onto the back burner and who knows what terrorist attack is a year away.Being a snap-judger on these things doesn't feel all that, I don't know, good. Plus, I want to continue to adore Obama and his pragmatism, even with the Rick Warren business. This isn't to say I won't blog politics, because I will. But it is to say that it may take a while for me to find my groove in the midst of all these crises and the serious political business that attends them. I'm betting I will find it, it's just not all that immediate. And besides, it's almost Christmas! Happy Holidays everyone.

Monday, December 22, 2008

About Tom Cruise

I love this kind of quote.

"But note a curious fact about his career: It maps perfectly onto the 25-year bull market in stocks that, like Cruise, is starting to show its age. Nascent in the early '80s, emergent in 1983, dominant in the '90s, suspiciously resilient in the '00s, and, starting in 2005, increasingly prone to alarming meltdowns. For both Cruise and the Dow Jones, more and more leverage is required for less and less performance. Place Cruise next to Nicholson, Newman, and Tracy, and he is a riddle. Place him next to Reagan, and he is not so confounding at all."

The article is here.

Audio Books

Hats off to Sue Dickman over at A Life Divided for her excellent post on audio books. I had checked out a little on blog-life (having been taken over by kindergarten concerns for much of December) but now I'm checking back in and I feel like I just got a huge present. The huger present would be baking some of those skinny peanut cookies, which I'm nervous about doing because I know someone, a small child, with a very bad peanut allergy. To be clear: I'm nervous about doing this even though the child is out of town until early Janury. That, I think, is a problem. Maybe listening to audio books will solve it. Thanks, Sue!


Why is anyone interviewing Sarah Palin? It's like the worst game of musical chairs ever -- the music just. won't. stop. And here I am making it go a little longer, because I just can't help myself because it's just amazing how someone who says she's all about self-reliance can take not one bit of responsibility for anything. Amazing.


About a month ago, I got glasses for just walking around. About a week ago, I finally got used to wearing them. I started to really like wearing them. I found my eyes felt better when I wore them. Do you know where I'm going? Last night I was rushing around doing something and I took them off.


You'd think in a four room apartment I'd be able to find them pretty easily. In fact, not so much. Truth be told, I might have to de-clutter. Not good.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Tonight I did something I've only done two maybe three times before. I made stock. And I made it with the carcass of a chicken I roasted on Friday and then made chicken salad from today. I mean, I used the whole freaking chicken. Plus I have this weird pride that my fridge is almost empty because we've actually eaten the food in it. And there are beets in there that I'm going to roast tomorrow. I did buy some salad greens that went bad virtually overnight, but I also laid in some lentil soup, which makes two kinds of soup in my freezer, not counting the stock. Really, the snow has me all a-twitter with the cooking and the mixing and the straining and the making. And Wednesday or Thursday I'm going to make bread with my kids. Raisin bread from the River Cottage Family Cookbook. I've made two recipes from that book and both have been sub-par, but if I'm baking bread with two four-year-olds, I have to expect less than stellar results. And wouldn't someone who makes stock take that less than stellar bread and make with it bread pudding? What's happened to me? Who knew that cooking was really just a lesson in resilience?

Friday, December 19, 2008

It's the Money, Honey

Paul Krugman has something to say today, something to which we should all attend. In his Op-Ed, he points out that the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme really wasn't so different from what the financial industry as a whole has been doing these last twenty years. Michael Lewis describes just what that was in his excellent article on the end of Wall Street as we know. (The kicker's a dream, though I did spend a good chunk of the middle trying to reconstruct myself just how short selling works.) In any case, Krugman makes a very clear, very important point about money and culture and it is this:

"I believe, is that there’s an innate tendency on the part of even the elite to idolize men who are making a lot of money, and assume that they know what they’re doing."


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Late Posting

I didn't get to blog yesterday -- I criss crossed the city twice, got a haircut, read about the A-bomb in last week's New Yorker, got invested in Chi Running, and ran around like a lady with a new haircut at Christmas time. Now, I've got to take care of stuff before getting to the kiddos' school holiday shindigs. Sorry for the lack of posts. But one quick question: Is anyone else surprised at what's happening to Fabio on Top Chef?

Note: I did write a longish post about the Torture Report and today's Times editorial about it, but I feel like it's too serious to write about quickly.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Shuffle

I finally used my Shuffle --the iPod Shuffle my brother got me, that is. Since I decided to work yesterday, it was clearly the morning when I had to, had to, had to figure out how to get my music from iTunes to the shuffle. I know, some of you are thinking it's a plug-n-play kind of thing, but, you know, I've never been a plug-n-play kind of girl. I'm more plug and wonder if it's really ready to play or is the green light just some kind of pretend green light and if I turn it on will it play the thing that I want or how will I know what I want or if I play it, will it make me deaf? And yet, yesterday I overcame all that and plugged in. Now, I'd loaded up my shuffle with two sets of music. The first was a CD compiled by Louis for his wedding to Nicole -- they're the couple I actually married. The second set were songs most of which I have long coveted but never owned and finally, gleefully downloaded. You know, these are the songs that stop me in my tracks in a mall or make me turn up the volume in the car. Even the ones I own (Madonna's Don't Tell Me) still make me do all that. So, if you were to listen to my shuffle and a really actually fundamentally cool song came on, some kind of world music thing with a dance beat, you could bet that that would be from Louis' disc. If something like, say, Elton John's Tiny Dancer were to swell up? You guessed it, the white girl geeking out. Which is to say, I'd like Louis to make more CDs for me and if not actual CDs then at least a few song lists to live to. Because I love Elton John, but sometimes, you've got to break it down and bust it out.

And here's a special Thank You to my brother Louis for getting me the gadget which I'd think a lot about but never actually buy. It made my Couch-to-5K outdoor experience quite excellent.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Money. The Failure. The Web?

I have a hard time sticking with stuff when I read online. I have to force myself to focus, attend, finish. Often I wander off in the middle and think about recipe books I should consult or that book about deregulation (I think that's what it's about) I still want to read or whether or not I'm going to blog about how I still don't quite get short selling. But today, I made myself finish reading this post on the Daily Kos. I got to it from (where else?) Sullivan, and it begins with a quote from an article in Harper's that maybe I want to go read. (Per the Kos post it's not yet online). So I'm reading and it's about the debt and how badly the Bush administration has mangled things and then it's about propoganda and how those in power talk about how things happen and then it gets to its point: The failure of the government to manage the chaos of our country has created the potential for more democratic discussion. I read this and start to get that familiar stirring deep inside, the thing that signals maybe I feel hope? Maybe I'm a little less cynical? Maybe I'll find a way to get up and get involved?

I read on and learn that that democratic discussion isn't going to happen between people or in assembly halls or church basement or classrooms. No. It's going to happen on the Web. And I just want to hang my head because a blogger writing about how the democratic discussion is going to happen online is, in the end, just writing so much self-referential chin music.

Sure we can discuss away online, and more people than can fit on the New York Times or the Daily Beast or even Huffington Post can join in. And then? Doesn't more democratic discussion have to happen through talking out loud to other people and then to matter shouldn't it make us act? I mean, Obama didn't win just because of all those words and all that content online. He won because there were people all over the country knocking on doors and taking people to the polls. Discussion led to action. Sure, it also led to a lot of web sites and lordy knows I love the web and the blogging thing. But, really, the whole shebang can't be about the web. It just can't. It's too depressing. Isn't it?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Not Quite Cream of Wheat

Lately I've been craving cream of wheat. Serious cream of wheat. Like, white cream of wheat made with milk with a river of melted butter running through it and sugar on top. A deep river of butter. But here's the thing: If I made that bowl of cream of wheat, I'd be hungry five minutes later, and I'd be uncomfortable all day. All that lactose if you know what I mean. So I don't make it. Then tonight, for dinner, I made quinoa, corn and spinach soup from Deborah Madison's Vegetable Soup book. Mostly I made it because I found a thing of quinoa I bought months ago, and because I'd just gotten two ears of corn at Whole Foods even though it's December. (My son loves it.) And you know what? It had a grainy consistency that almost totally scratched by Cream of Wheat itch. I say almost because there was no butter. But I also made chocolate shortbread today, so that'll have to take care of the butter part.

Good thing I re-started my Couch-to-5K training. I'd stopped for a sore knee and fully recovered, I'm starting again. Truly, this is the heart of Saturday night.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Auto Thing

I can't believe the whole auto industry bailout fiasco. I mean, I don't know a thing about it, but I can't believe Republicans are blaming unions for not cutting wages or benefits (and I bet you 14 billion dollars it's the benefits that people are really worried about) by whatever date they say without demanding any cut in the compensation to the CEOs or the uppermost level of management.

According the Elizabeth Kolbert's Talk of the Town piece in the The New Yorker (12/8, and no the first "the" is not a typo), the head of Ford, who made 20 million dollars in 2007, swhen he was asked if he'd take a dollor for his salary next year s aid he was comfortable with his compensation level. Great. Did talks break down because of that? Not so much.

Sure, bank presidents should be forced to take one dollar in salary, or at least cap their salaries at, like, a million dollars, which is about the same to them. But bailout burnout doesn't mean the Republicans then get to blame workers for the failure of overpaid management or, more to the point, the failure of this country to enact any kind of comprehensive health plan in the last 40 years. It's really unbelievable. Who are these people?

A Day Away & Milk

Last night my brother emailed me because I hadn't posted anything since Wednesday. Well, I had to go to Philadelphia and while there I didn't have a chance to post, but I did get the chance to go to a 5:40 movie. Just going at that hour was delicious and guilt inducing. Was it really OK to just sit in the dark and watch a movie at 5:40? Not only was it, but I saw Milk, which is a movie about becoming yourself--and in Harvey Milk's case, becoming yourself at 40. I love that.

Here's Andrew Solomon's take on the film, which is right and moving, except for the kicker which says at its best the gay rights movement is holy. I don't think the gay rights movement at its best is holy. I don't think any movement that identifies injustice and intolerance is holy. I think such movements are themselves quintessentially human. Contradictory as Solomon says, but simply human. You don't get god points for finding the best part of yourself --the part that acknowledges limits and yearns to expand. As much as I liked the movie, and as appropriate as it is for this particular moment, here's the thing I didn't like. There were no women. I mean, one woman--Milk's campaign manager. But there's this kicky scene when Cleave Jones, a young protege of Milk, calls two friends and they call two friends and so on and so on and they are all men. That's the thing about the gay rights movement, it's so male. So it goes.

There was one other woman in the movie: Anita Bryant, who I swear is a dead ringer for --or at least progenirator of - Sarah Palin. In any case, I recommend Milk with my highest 5 hanky rating.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Last night after Max & Ruby my son Elliot decided to make a cake. He used gravel, water, green foam soap and chocolate syrup. Then, he wanted to use the standing mixer, you know, to mix the batter. I said no. Ever resourceful, he asked for the immersion blender. I looked at him, I looked at the "batter," I thought, 'How bad could it be?' Only -- can you guess? -- I forgot about the gravel.

Political Interests

The other day on Politico there was a story about why progressives are upset with Obama. Apparently, he's too centrist. Actually, the story was about "liberals" being upset with Obama. I guess I flipped it to progressives because maybe it sounded fringier to me, or maybe because I consider myself a liberal but I'm not upset with Obama's appointments. Not that I know so much to be upset, but I can work myself up into an uneducated rage as well as the next guy. And if only I were Joe the Plumber I could get a book deal for it.

In any case, Frank Rich made a good case for why everyone should stop weeping with joy over Obama's smarty pants cabinet, at least when it comes to economics, seeing as some smarty pants economists (like Clintonite-I-didn't-make-a-mistake Robert Rubin) kind of got us into this mess. Then again, Paul Volker, not Mr. Rubin, is heading up the economic clean-up team. Got the message, Mr. Rich. I'm no longer reflexively cheerleading. But I'm not weeping into my fair trade coffee, either. I'm not the first to make the point I'm about to make: Obama never hid his pragmatism from the public. Obama, like a good politician, is most interested in getting done what he needs and wants to get done. And so, stories about how people are upset with appointments are jsut so much handwringing and foot stamping and, frankly, I get enough of the latter with my 4-year-olds. All told, though, it has me a little off the news. I can't even find the latest New Yorker. Now I'm wondering if I keep writing this same post in different ways -- I'm off the news! Everyone's too excited or too depressed about Obama! I can't take it anymore! Maybe I'm still in my election hangover. A month out it seems excessive, but it's probably the case. So it goes. I'll get a good night's sleep and wake from this dream one of these days. In the meantime, I'm off to Philadelphia.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Egg Problem

I bake too many chocolate chip cookies; I have to branch out. But by now I know my favorite recipe by heart and I have my technique down to a loving science (I will admit the refrigeration recommended in the Times over the summer helps), and, I've got to say, the cookies are good, so I make them. But here's a potential wrinkle in my always-have-home made cookies on hand ambitions: Free range farm market eggs. I bought some on Sunday and they're all the things they're supposed to be plus they vary in size, as eggs are wont to do. Now, when I was a child and my mother would describe the recipes her mother-in-law gave her as a new bride, she'd say, "I read the recipe and it said things like 'a half a small eggshell of water! How am I supposed to know what that is?'" Great laughter ensued. But here's the thing: If my grandmother eyeballed those eggs I got on Sunday, which happened to have what I consider to be an unusual amount of size variation, she'd know exactly which eggs to use for her cookies and which to use for her mundel bread. She wouldn't wonder how the bigger egg would act, she'd know. She might pick it up, roll it around her hand, and plop it back in the case. Wrong size. Too much white. But me? I don't know. I'll just have to practice, which, in practical terms, means more cookies.

Reduse, Reuse, but Recycle? Not So Much

According to the New York Times, the market in recycled materials is not so good these days. Along with cars and houses, loads of cardboard and glass are sitting on vacant lots just waiting for someone to come along and snap it all up at the right price. This is...what's the word? Depressing. It's depressing not only because reusable material will go into landfills because it can't be sold. It's depressing because what seemed like some kind of progress -- the practice of recycling instead of throwing away -- is going to disappear because it's not profitable enough (or at all). It's not that the market-factor is so surprising, it's just that in this age when green is good, it would be nice to think that green could simply be Good and good enough not have to be about the other kind of green, you know, the money kind. I know this is naive and impractical. I know everyone likes to "do good and do well," because if you don't how else can you afford that gorgeous local produce or the fantastic biodegradable hand-whipped body lotion made of the subtly fantastic minced kelp and gooseberry served up in a sleek yet somehow appealing package at just $24.95 for 4 oz. I mean, you need to do well if you're going to do good and shop responsibly. Right?

I digress.

At the very end of the Times article there was a stitch of hope -- a class of second graders that gave up recess to write letters advocating for recycling no matter the profit. They just want a world that's not full of junk, they wrote. I hope, as in words sung by Whitney Houston, those children are our future and that the words we tell them -- waste goes somewhere, responsibility matters, the world will melt -- will take root and drive their actions for the long term. Because right now the adults are all about the short term (sub-prime derivative instruments anyone?) and we've all forgotten the inherent value of long-term planning....I mean recycling.

Now, I've got to run to Whole Foods. But first I gotta find my reusable shopping bags.....

The Baby and Her Bear

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Kindergarten Thing

So yesterday I went on a school tour. I loved it. I wasn't expecting to love it, but there I was, watching kindergarten children singing in Spanish in trailers turned into classrooms and I was like, I don't know, head over heels. I could just see my daughter springing around a room like that, so excited to learn more words, and in Spanish!

I should explain. The tour was of a dual-language program, Spanish-English. In kindergarten, the kids spend 80 percent of their time learning in Spanish and 20 percent in English. In first grade it moves to 50-50. Going in to the tour I was more curious about the dual language thing. Now, obviously, I'm besotted. I love the idea of a Spanish-English program, for many reasons (learning a second language, I think, opens your mind in an ineffable way -- there's not just one way to speak or be understood or simply be, never mind the fact that so many people speak Spanish and I feel like, shouldn't we all try, at least a little?)

And those trailers? Can I just say, they were really nice. And the teachers? Some serious bright lights.

So what's the down side? Well, this program is in a public school in my district but not my zone. Because it's in my zone, there's a way to get in, but no one yet knows what the acceptance process will be. We all just have to wait for the Department of Education to tell us. But you know what's worse than not knowing how I might get my daughter into the school? What's worse is the math.

There are two dual-language kindergarten classrooms at this school. I believe each class will have 24 kids, although I heard 20 as a number, too. They want to split the classes 50-50 between Spanish dominant/bi-lingual kids and English dominant (and monolingual) kids. Then they want to have gender parity. So, there will be, essentially, 24 slots for monolingual English children like mine, and of those, 12 slots for girls. Did I mention this is a New York City public school? I don't even know how many people apply or what the odds are, but not so good feels like a pretty good bet.

On the bright side, it's nice to fall in love. On the not so bright side, love means hope suspended, even with Kindergarten.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Bear

I would blog now, but I'm almost done with the bear, and it needs to be delivered tomorrow. I'll post a picture....and more.....

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tina Fey-A Short Post

Over at Jezebel, they write: "Sadly, the whole physical transformation thing matters because if she didn't do it, there's a chance that no matter how smart or funny she was (and Lorne Michaels makes it clear they thought that even when she was heavier) we wouldn't even know her name..."

Now, I'm not going to argue that it isn't warped that television stars (mostly) have to be of a certain weight in order to succeed. Pace, Camryn Manheim, the Friends season 1 Jennifer Aniston (who was trim but nothing like she is now), and the pretty young woman who stars in Ugly Betty (America someone), zaftig mostly doesn't fly on the air. (OK. Aniston wasn't zaftig that first season of Friends, but she has said that she lost 20 or 30 pounds and the movie offers came rolling in and for some reason, she didn't put the weight back on.)

But then again, maybe not. The heavier Fey could indeed have made it on the air; I honestly suspect she would have but we don't know what would have happened because Fey decided not to leave it up to chance.

As a Salon writer noted (scroll down for the 12/2 post), Fey lost the weight because she was ambitious and wanted to be on TV. The weight loss meant she could do it without being labeled as the woman who did it without losing weight. That would've been a nice sort of feminist moment (although if she's healthier now, I'm not sure that that's altogether good either), but then we would've been having this discussion in reverse. If that were the case, would a heavy Fey be a story of body acceptance or cultural exceptionalism? I suspect the latter, though the rhetoric would be all about the former.

But this whole strain of discussion is absurd. OK. The most absurd thing is that Maureen Dowd even wrote about it (in Vanity Fair) in the first place. Fey, Like her 30 Rock co-star (the not overly thin but with a slamming bod) Jane Kurkowski, is pretty. Not drop-dea gorgeous, but normal pretty. More important than their looks, though, is the fact that both are extremely funny and extremely talented and that's why they're stars. That Fey lost weight to conform to society's idea of beauty? Like I said last night, it's too bad, but it doesn't make her any less authentic or her success any less remarkable. (And, uh, maybe she likes her bodies as it is now? Just maybe?)

So Fey, she's funny, she's a star of her own TV show, she's in a funny AmEx ad, she has a six million dollar book deal, and she earned all of it, and her waistline is essentially a sideline, so can we stop talking about it?

(I realize now that there's an opening to talk about how femal appearance played out in the election -- but then again, Hillary Clinton is poised to be Secretary of State and Sarah Palin is not. See, your smart, you work hard, you wear a lot of pantsuits, you're gonna make it after all, even if this crazy, appearance-obsessed, male-gaze dominated world of ours.)

Next November

Come November 2009, I'm going to make this cake for my brother's birthday. And to be sure I get it right, I'm going to make it a few times in advance. A girl needs to practice her whiskey-chocolate bundt cake making skills after all.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Surrogate, Reconsidered

This critique from Salong of the surrogate article in The Times is from a whole different place than my response, which was purely emotional, but the writer is right on. Spot on. Interesting how much one can re-make a piece in response to one's own experience and just decide to ignore the gross photos and overlook the privileged awfulness of Kuczinski. One being me. I mean, just because she compulsively went through doesn't mean she has to be awful. I now miss reading Peggy Orenstein on infertility, and I thought I was really done with Peggy Orenstein on infertility.

Certainly, I'm done with infertility now. And here I was planning on blogging about Tina Fey and her weight loss. It'll have to wait until tomorrow. All I'll say is this: A skinnier Fey is a no less authentic Fey and enough with the handwringing. OK. I'm just getting started, but I think I'm also done.

Losing Track

December seems to be turning into a fairly busy month for me. I've actually filled in things to do on almost every day that I can do something (that is, days when I have a sitter), and it's all stuff that really needs to happen. Like checking out schools for the children who are with the sitter and then talking to people about schools for the children who are in school while we're talking or some such. I've spent the last three months thinking a lot about schools for my kids and I can't say that all the thinking has helped much, although halfway through October I got significantly calmer when I thought about schools. Our school situation is complicated for all kinds of reasons, but that's not really my point here. I titled this post "losing it" because I feel like with all my calendar keeping I still am losing track of things. Like, when did I buy those beets and how could they have gotten so, you know, soft? And which New Yorker am I up to and why can't I find the most recent one and should I really read articles from before the election because wasn't that a whole other world? I'm losing track of my hair (it's getting long); my year end giving (have I given to my alma mater already?); my spot in Middlemarch (it wants to be read in long stretches, not fifteen minute chunks). I guess none of it is the end of the world, since I've yet to actually lose my copy of Middlemarch or any of my hair. All things considered, I guess losing track is sometimes just the thing.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Can We?

I never though of Obama as an ideologue. I don't really love ideologues. I maybe am one a little, but, truthfully, I'm very practical, politically, and I understand that a road uncompromised is a road to nowhere. So, now, I read what Sullivan writes about Obama and the quote from some other neo-con person, and, I don't know, I get all weak in the knees. It's like, can I really, really hope this much? And if I hope this much, will it take away from my iTunes journey?

My ITunes Problem

My brother gave me an iPod shuffle. I'm thrilled. Really I am. I can just see myself running three months from now. I've figured out my knee problem, I've finished the couch-to-5K thing, and I lope along with my green shuffle clipped to my new running tights. Only there's this: Itunes makes me batty. Like, I can't figure out why I can't log into my account from my laptop--why should it be hardware dependent? And will I be able to sink both the shuffle and the old-school iPod I have into the same computer? Because the disk drive on my old desktop went kaput. And here's my big question: Why can't I easily find the answers to any of these questions? And my biggest question: How much time am I going to spend on all this music stuff? Do I love listening to music when I run? I don't know. I never really have. Maybe I clip the shuffle for show and listen to nothing?

All I can say is all this do-it-yourself technology leaves precious little time for anything but managing the do-it-yourself technology. I know I'll love the shuffle, eventually, but don't even get me started on Shutterfly.